EARLIER this month in Beijing, China and America held the latest instalment of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), a regular—and by most accounts productive—series of high-level bilateral meetings. Attending were America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Broad-ranging and important issues like trade, currency, nuclear proliferation filled the agenda. But most attention was focused on the daring flight of a blind lawyer and activist, Chen Guangcheng, from his illegal home detention in Shandong to the American embassy in Beijing.
America has long felt free to lecture China—and many other countries too—on its shortcomings and failures in the human-rights department. America having never been entirely free of shortcomings itself, there was ever some degree of hypocrisy in this approach. It has long been the common view in China, among officials and common folk alike, that American criticism depends on keeping “double standards” and that America ought to have questions of its own to answer, about things like discrimination against minorities, the long-ago subjugation of indigenous peoples and economic inequality at home, to say nothing of hegemonic behaviour abroad. China's tit-fot-tat annual report on the state of human rights in America, the most recent of which was released on May 25th (the text is carried in full here and in English at China Daily) is only more of the same.